God’s Traveling Team Pt. 4

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God’s “Little Rascals”

For those who are keeping track of my articles, it is easy to see that Teen Missions International is a mission group that had a very big impact on my life.  This is the seventh time I have written an article that is about or refers to TMI, and this is the fourth in my little series that describes what life was like being part of a traveling mission team for God.  This article is specifically a follow-up to the last one where I talked about my year with the TMI Staff Travel Team.

In that last article, I wrote primarily about all the places we traveled to and some of our experiences along the way.  But I think it is worth going back to that year and telling some stories about the people who were the members of that team.  Just like I have fond memories of the people who were part of the Fall Travel Team and how we had special nicknames for each other (read here), so I have also decided to compare the Staff Travel Team to some funny characters.

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Now our Staff Travel Team was a little different from the Fall Travel Team in that while we did have a few nicknames given to some members, we did not have a clear parallel like being the Seven Dwarves.  We did call Henry “Amigo” since he was from Mexico.  Julie was called “Jules”, and Bill Rambo was called “Rambo” (which fit seeing as he is big and tough like Sylvester Stallone…haha).

As for me, I was called “Stormy”.  Now when I tell people this, one of their first thoughts is that I got this from my last name “Weatherhead”.  But that is not the case.  (Actually, my dad was also called “Stormy” and it was because of his last name.)  And when he heard that I was being called “Stormy”, he was a little upset that I had “stolen” his nickname.  But I assured him that was not the case.

No, my nickname of “Stormy” comes from a shortened form of my full nickname “Stormin’ Norman”.  And you know it is actually quite funny that I should be given this full nickname, because for those people who know me, I have a personality that is anything but loud, turbulent, or fierce weather.  (Now I’m not saying I don’t get angry at times, but generally I am an easy-going kind of quiet guy who does not want to ruffle feathers.)

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But I can still hear “Rambo” calling out my name when I would come into the room.  “STORMIN’ NORMAN”, he would say.  And then when he felt like he needed to do some exercise, he would yell over and say to me, “STORMY, come here.”  And I knew what would come next.  I would stand up real stiff and Bill would grab me with his two massive hands and he would literally lift me up and do arm presses with me up to the ceiling.  (Say, maybe I should have called him “the Hulk” or “the Thing” from Fantastic Four.)

But we all had so much fun together in that 12 month period of living so close together.  In fact, some of us really bonded well with at least one other member of the team.  So “boisterous” Bill always had “perky” Paul chumming around with him.  I tell you, those two were always up to something. 🙂 And Julie and Joni were inseparable at times.  Henry (the Mexican) and I (the Canadian) bonded as the “foreigners” of the group.  And then we had a romance go on during the year between Henry and Sandy, the leader of the girls, and who started as the leader of our group until we were assigned an older couple to lead our group.

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So given all this information, I sat down a few weeks ago and I decided that our Staff Travel Team needed a special kind of nickname, just like we had for our Fall Travel Team.  And after a period of reflection, it came to me.  I now know what to call our group.  Just like the Fall Travel Team was called “The Seven Dwarves”, so now I am going to call our Staff Travel Team “God’s Little Rascals”.

Now I realize that I am starting to get a little old, but I am not so old that I really remember the original TV series “The Little Rascals”.  But I knew enough from the 1994 movie version (which included great adult actors like Mel Brooks, Daryl Hannah, Whoopi Goldberg and George Wendt) that I knew I had hit it on the nail.  And this is how the team parallels the movie:

  • Spanky is the man’s man and the president of the “He-Man Women Hater’s Club”.  He later learns to like the idea that girls are “okay”.   (Bill)
  • Stymie is the club’s vice-president who stands beside the president and supports all the plans and ideas of the president.  (Paul)
  • Alfalfa is the very good friend of Spanky, but who secretly loves Darla, something forbidden by the club rules, but in the end, he gets his girl.  (Henry)
  • Darla is the leader of the girls, who causes all kinds of mischief around the boys, and is the object of Alfalfa’s affection.   (Sandy)
  • The Twins are two girls who follow Darla and who think all boys are silly.  (Joni & Julie)
  • And then for me, I would be Froggy who has a high-pitched croaking voice, but is one of the boys who comes up with good ideas for the club.

(Henry, Joni, Bill, Julie, Paul, Sandy, Norm)

So there you have it folks.  You now have been included into the special group of the TMI Staff Travel Team.  What a great year it was to live our lives together and both serve the Lord as a team, but also become such great friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord.  And after 30 years, we are still in touch with each other and consider each other very good friends.

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My Grandfather’s Legacy

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Who Am I?  Pt 2

My full name is Norman Craig Weatherhead.  In my last article about “Who Am I?”, I related how it was by God’s hand of providence that I was even born at all.  I also told the story of how I used to be called Craig as my primary given name, but due to some interesting sleight of hand, my given name of Craig got slipped into the middle of my name on the official documents that were signed at the hospital.  So that explains my middle name.  Now how about my first name of Norman.  Well, it has a story too.

Norman was the name of my Grandfather on my Mother’s side.  He was in the British military and right after World War 1, he joined the British Customs Services and was posted to China in 1921.  He had been living there for some time when a slight, attractive woman, who was quiet of speech but strong in will, caught his eye and in 1927 they were married in China.  An interesting piece of history here and a claim to fame is that Eric Liddel, the famous long distance runner in “The Chariot’s of Fire”, was the best man for my Grandfather in their wedding in China.

This marriage of Norman Knight to Violet Baty had an immense impact upon his life.  You see, my Grandmother was a missionary from Canada who worked for the United Church of Canada’s North China Mission in Tianjin, and when she married Norman, he quickly found himself employed by the mission to be the Business Manager and Director of the mission’s hospital further inland.  There is no doubt that his experience working as a Customs Officer prepared the way for him to serve well in this mission in this capacity.

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But to say that Norman Knight was just a Business Manager would greatly understate the valuable services that he provided for the Chinese people themselves.  When the Japanese forces invaded China in 1937 and up through 1941, for most of that time Norman was the liaison between the mission members and the compound as a whole, and the Japanese garrison leaders.  As he used delaying tactics, the staff would hide some of the local Chinese guerrilla fighters.

It was truly by the grace of God that Norman and his family made it out of China as Japan tightened more of their control over the country.  Unfortunately, after Pearl Harbor, the same cannot be said for Eric Liddel, who had become such a great friend to my grandparents.  Eric, for whom our son is named after, was interned by the Japanese and suffered malnutrition and terrible physical conditions in the Japanese POW camps.  Eric died just a few months before China was liberated in 1945.

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Back to Norman Knight, who returned alone to China after the war, was again recalled to Canada just before the complete takeover of the Communists in 1949.  Following his China years as a missionary, Norman was ordained by the United Church of Canada, and asked to minister to some small rural churches in Alberta.  And even though he had no formal theological training, his mission experience and skill sets were more than enough to help him be a good minister to a number of rural Albertan churches.

Now fast-forward a number of years until you come to 1960.  My mother was now pregnant with me and they had not made any firm choices on potential names for this fourth child of theirs.  But on September 27th, exactly two months before I was born, my grandfather Norman Knight died.  This motivated my parents to then give me his name of Norman, both as a memorial to him, and an inheritance for me.

Now jump forward again about 15 years.  Up until my middle teen years, I had always been known as Craig as I mentioned earlier.  But two things happened in the next two years that caused me to change that and go by my first name, Norman.

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The first thing that happened was that my names caused great confusion for the Navy of Canada.  (I bet that surprised you.)  You see, I had been part of the Sea Cadets for three years (ages 13-15) and in the summer of my 15th year, I attended a rigorous Navy Boot Camp.  And when it was over and I was back in Calgary, two packets came to me from the Navy Headquarters.

In one packet was the certificate of completion, the group picture of my squid mates, and my awards that I had won from some of the competitions.  These were all given to Able Seaman Norman Weatherhead.  But in the other packet, there was a certificate of completion of Boot Camp, but no group picture and no awards given.  This packet was sent to Able Seaman Craig Weatherhead.  : )  So Norman was outstanding, but Craig was missing.  This is the funny story about my two names.

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On the more serious side, I was wrestling with my own self-identity, and one aspect of that was trying to decide what I wanted to do in life.  The Navy really attracted me, and I will tell you a further Navy story in the next “Who Am I?” article.  But after accepting Christ as my Savior in 1972, then sensing in 1974 that God wanted me to be a servant-worker for him, and in 1976, being able to see Bible translation being done in the mountain town of Cuzco, Peru, I knew that God was calling me to be a missionary.

And that caused me to think about my grandfather, Norman Knight.  It would seem to me, that not only did I receive my grandfather’s name as an inheritance, I believe that I also received his vocation as part of that inheritance.  This thought has gone through my mind and my mother’s mind, and even my grandmother’s mind while she was still alive, that in some divine way, there was a connection between me and my grandfather.  And we have wondered, if it is possible, that during the two months since he passed away and before I was born, perhaps he and I had some very interesting conversations together in the spirit realm.  Maybe I’ll get to find out if this is true when it is my turn to graduate to heaven.

Whatever the case, thank you Granddad for your namesake and your legacy passed on to me.

A Miracle Child

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Who Am I?  Part 1

“Hi, I’m Craig!”

“Wait a minute, I thought you were Norman?”

“Yes, that’s true, but that’s a story for another day.”

Okay so what’s going on here. Well, apparently, I am a man of many names, and each name has an interesting story behind it.  A couple of names are given names, a few names are nick names given to me, and many names that I have are simply descriptive names which reflect accomplishments or activities I have been involved with over the years.

They say you can know a lot about a person just by knowing their name, and I think there is truth in that.  Over the months ahead, I want to publish a number of articles that will deal with the question of “Who Am I?”  Each story will try to capture just a brief glimpse into my life and help my readers get to know me a little better.  But more important than getting to know me, I want my readers to get to know my God who created me the way I am, and who has had the most significant influence upon my life.  Many of my so-called “names” will show how God has had His hand on me throughout my life.

The best place to start a story is of course at the very beginning.  So….go back 50 years, and you would hear about my mother and father having a healthy baby boy.  I won’t go into those details, but rather, let’s go farther back, to tell you how I came to be my mother’s “miracle” baby.  Not to say that my other siblings were not “special” too, but there is one very important detail about my birth that is definitely noteworthy.

In the 50′, it was quite common for families to have many children.  My parents were no exception.  But by the time it was 1960, my mother had already birthed three children, and had two miscarriages.  After talking things over, my parents had decided that it was time to make sure they had no more children.  So my mom set up the appointment to see her doctor to have her tubes tied to prevent any more pregnancies.

It turned out though, that mom’s regular doctor was on holiday.  So mom saw the other doctor covering the clinic that day.  When she asked for the surgery to be done, this second doctor said that for personal and religious reasons, that he could not do it.  She would have to wait till her regular doctor came back.

So mom had to wait for a few weeks to see her usual doctor and again went in to ask to have the surgery.  But as the two of them were talking about it, mom revealed to her doctor that she had noticed little signs that made her suspect that she might be pregnant.  That’s fine, said the doctor, and she ordered a pregnancy test.  Well….Lo and Behold!  Mom was pregnant.  And that settled the whole matter.  The Weatherhead clan was going to add one more member to it.

It is at this point that I want to be careful not to overspiritualize this, but I do look back and consider just how close it came for me not to be born at all.  And yet, as a Christian, I do take a strong stand that from the moment we are conceived, we are a child created by God, and in my case, I believe that He was looking out over me.  Psalm 22:10 says:

From birth, I was cast upon you;

From my mother’s womb, you have been my God.

This has been a special verse to me, as I believe that God knew all along that my mother was pregnant with me, probably even before the first visit to the doctor.  It could easily have been overlooked in those days, and I could have become an infant death without them even knowing.  That would be God’s hand of protection.

Or, if mom had gotten pregnant between the two doctor visits, then that too would be a minor miracle.  First, that it happened in this short interval period at all.  Second, that mom sensed it and had it checked out. And then thirdly, with already having had two miscarriages, what was to stop it from mom having another one.  Again, only God’s hand of provision and protection made it possible for me to be carried and born.  In either case, mom has often called me her “miracle” child.

Oh yes, you are probably still wondering about my name confusion at the beginning of this story.  Well, both of my parents were happy with the two names they had chosen, but apparently they did not completely agree with the order of the name.  They liked giving me the name “Norman” which was my mother’s father’s name.  (And that will be another story to come.)  But they also wanted to call me as my primary given name “Craig”, which sounded strong.

Now the remainder of the story is still a bit fuzzy.  The name written down on the form was to be “Craig Norman Weatherhead”, which makes sense.  You use your first name in public, and you treasure your middle name-sake given to you.  But somehow, during the discharge paperwork, it seems that my names were reversed and I officially become “Norman Craig Weatherhead”.  Years later, when I asked about this, I was told that the latter arrangement had a kind of “nice lilt” to it.   Hmmm….and let me see….my mother was musically inclined, and my father was not so much.  So…I wonder how that paperwork got all mixed up?  Oh Mom….I have a question for you.   : )